Syndication Ratings: March Madness Great for Stations, Not for Syndies

NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Tournament on CBS Pre-Empts Several Shows

The annual NCAA’s Men’s Basketball Tournament, known as March Madness, is a ratings boon for the CBS stations that carry it but can be rough on the syndicated shows that get pre-empted and shuffled around to make room for games.

Ironically, the shows that took the biggest hits -- Judge Judy, Dr. Phil, Entertainment Tonight and The Insider -- are produced and distributed by the station group’s sister company, CBS Domestic Television.

Judge Judy -- syndication’s top court show and consistently the only first-run syndie showing year-to-year growth -- fell 10% from the prior week to a new season-low 4.3 live-plus-same-day national household rating in the week ending March 23, according to Nielsen Media Research. Judy was pre-empted in four of the top five markets March 20 and 21. Those are the tournament’s two busiest days, with all 64 teams in play.

CBS’ Judge Joe Brown, on the other hand, was the only one of the top five court shows to gain on the week, jumping 4% to a 2.6. Warner Bros.’ People’s Court and Judge Mathis each were flat for the week, remaining at their season lows of 2.3 and 2.0, respectively. Twentieth Television’s Divorce Court and Judge Alex also were flat, each at a 1.7 and a season-low for Divorce Court. Sony’s Judge Hatchett, which is ending original production after this season, climbed 8% to a 1.3. Twentieth’s Cristina’s Court fell 8% to a 1.2. Sony’s Judge Maria Lopez was unchanged at a 0.8. Sony’s rookie, Judge David Young, dropped 11% to a 0.8. And Radar Entertainment’s newcomer, Jury Duty, climbed 50% to a 0.3 from a 0.2.

Sticking with daytime, CBS’ Oprah climbed 2% to a 4.8 after hitting a season-low 4.7 in the prior week. CBS’ Dr. Phil -- which, due to the basketball tournament, did not air in 11 metered markets and moved to weaker time periods in 11 other markets -- fell 9% to a new season-low 3.9.

For the second week in a row, Disney-ABC’s Live with Regis and Kelly dropped to a new season low, falling 4% to a 2.6 after airing a week of repackaged shows. Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres, in fourth place, climbed 5% to a 2.3. CBS’ Rachael Ray fell 5% to a 1.9, tying NBC Universal’s Maury, which was flat. CBS’ Montel Williams, which also ended original production, was unchanged at its season-low 1.3, tying NBCU’s Jerry Springer, which climbed 18% after hitting a season-low 1.1 in the prior week. Warner Bros.’ Tyra Banks gained 10% to a 1.1. NBCU’s Martha Stewart was flat at a 1.0, tying Twentieth’s rookie, The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, which fell 9%. NBCU’s newcomer, TheSteve WilkosShow, was flat at a 0.9.

In access, CBS’ Entertainment Tonight remained the top magazine with a 4.4, down 2% after being pre-empted in 24 of the top 50 markets March 20. (Nielsen did not include ET’s ratings for March 21 in the show’s weekly average due to the show being pre-empted in more than 10% of the country on that day.)

CBS’ Inside Edition was flat at a 3.3. NBCU’s Access Hollywood held steady at a 2.3, tying Warner Bros.’ rookie, TMZ, which gained 3% on the week. CBS’ The Insider also was heavily pre-empted, helping it to decline 9% to a 2.0. Warner Bros.’ Extra jumped 6% to a 1.8.

CBS’ Wheel of Fortune improved 8% to an 8.0, although that only included Monday-Wednesday since Nielsen did not count the show’s ratings Thursday and Friday due to basketball pre-emptions. CBS’ Jeopardy! earned a 5.9. Nielsen reprocessed Jeopardy!’s ratings from the prior week, so no prior-week rating is available.

Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire held firm at a 2.8. Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud dropped 5% to a 1.9. Program Partners’ rookie, Merv Griffin’s Crosswords, came off a series-low 0.7, climbing 14% to a 0.8. Twentieth’s fellow newcomer, Temptation, was flat at a 0.5.

Among the off-net sitcoms, Warner Bros.’ George Lopez hit a new season-high 3.4, gaining 10% and putting the freshman show in fifth place. Warner Bros.’ top sitcom, rookie Two and a Half Men, increased 2% to a 5.2. Twentieth’s Family Guy, in second place, fell 4% to a 4.5. Sony’s veteran, Seinfeld, was unchanged at a 4.1. CBS’ former sitcom leader, Everybody Loves Raymond, now in fourth place, dropped 3% to a new season-low 3.6. In sixth and seventh place, Sony’s King of Queens and Warner Bros.’ Friends were each flat at a 2.9 and 2.8, respectively.